Turtles come up trumps
CAPTAIN Luke Cummins was crowned Player of the Grand Final after leading Turtles to back-to-back titles in The Waves Spring Cup decider with a 43-5 demolition of West Barbarians on Friday night.
Barbarians went into the match as rank underdogs but, aided by a string of penalties, they had the bulk of the attack in the first 25 minutes.
However, they committed too many elementary mistakes and, coupled with a brick-wall Turtles defence, were unable to turn possession into points.
Then as he has done so often, Queensland Rangers rugby league star Mat Templeman broke the game open with an 80-metre solo try.
Turtles then added two more tries in quick succession. Cummins caught the defence napping from a penalty 10 metres out, before Joel Turaga scored a signature try after a raid down the left flank.
Brendon McKeown converted two from three to establish a 19-0 lead with 10 minutes to the break.
Barbarians needed to score first in the second stanza to have any chance, but instead they had the worst possible start with Turtles winger Daniel Finter plucking the ball out of the air from a bomb and off-loading for Josh Tanner to finish off within a minute of the restart.
Three more tries in quick succession put Turtles in total control but the Barbarians never stopped trying and they were rewarded when inspirational captain James Courtice scored a consolation try in the dying seconds.
But all honours belonged to Turtles, which recorded their 25th consecutive victory since reforming last season after nine years in the wilderness.
Cummins combined with current coach Rob Darney to help steer East Coast Buccaneers to a string of premierships from when the Bundaberg and District Rugby Union was formed in 2001 through to 2007 before that club's collapse.
He was understandably pleased with the Turtles' win.
He described it as "probably one of our best wins of all because the boys finished two players short but they still held on".
"We lost Tempo (Templeman), Quade McGrory and Joel Turaga to injury but we had used all our replacements so we couldn't bring anyone on ... people had to scrap but that's what Turtles are about," he said.
"We got killed in penalties but we still gave away fewer than last year('s final) so I take that as an improvement."
Darney, who came on as a late replacement, praised his players.
"We weathered the storm in the first half then turned it on, and to win a grand final by that many points, it is a sweet victory and it reflects their determination and effort all year," he said.
"Luke was just superb but it was a pity Mat Templeman hurt his hamstring. He would have been devastating in the last 20 minutes.
"It was a team effort but all the loose forwards were brilliant ... Nathan Blair, Rohan Gibbs and Robbie McKeown."
Turtles 43 (Josh Tanner 2, Mat Templeman, Joel Turaga, Luke Cummins, Luke McCloskey, Brendon McKeown tries; Brendon McKeown 2, Robert McKeown 2 conversions) d Barbarians 5 (James Courtice try)